Playing regular golf is ‘good for your brain’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 25, 2017 13:32

A new study has found that doing moderate exercise such as the walking involved in regular games of golf is the best way to slow down the brain’s ageing process if you’re over 50.

The Australian research, which reviewed 39 studies and has been reported in the British Journal of Sports Science, has found that thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis.

This is even the case with people who have already showed signs of cognitive decline.

The researchers recommend T’ai Chi and yoga for people aged over 50, but Dr Claire Steves, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that walking is probably just as good. “Getting out there and doing physical exercise is good for your brain,” she said.

“Walking is as good for the body as going to the gym and it may well be the case that it’s just as good for the brain too.”

The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.

Researchers from the University of Canberra looked at the effects of at least four weeks of structured physical exercise on the brain function of adults.

In a variety of brain tests, they found evidence of aerobic exercise improving cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading, learning and reasoning, while muscle training – for example, using weights – had a significant effect on memory and the brain’s ability to plan and organise, the so-called executive functions.

Joe Northey, study author and researcher from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at Canberra, said the findings were convincing enough to enable both types of exercise to be prescribed to improve brain health in the over-50s.

“Even if you are doing moderate exercise only once or twice a week there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done,” he said.

He said people should be able to hold a conversation while doing moderate exercise.

NHS guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and exercise the major muscles on two or more days a week.

Dr Justin Varney, lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, agreed that any physical activity was good for brain and body.

“Whilst every 10 minutes of exercise provides some benefit, doing 150 minutes a week cuts the chances of depression and dementia by a third, and boosts mental health at any age.

“Doing both aerobic and strengthening exercises leads to a greater variety of health benefits.”

He added that walking could count as aerobic activity.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 25, 2017 13:32
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